Every emergency room sees its share of bizarre cases, but there's one that stands out at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. The trauma center handles 85-thousand emergencies a year, including one last year that involved removing a chainsaw from a woman's side.
"They said, `We have a woman who is stable, who has a chainsaw embedded in her,' and I snickered for a second, because I thought he was joking," said trauma surgeon Dr. Steve Salzman.
Teresa Salcich, a mother of four, was helping her parents around the house last July when she decided to grab her dad's chainsaw and trim some tree branches. She'd read on the internet how to use it, and she thought she was being extra careful by wearing goggles.
"I didn't realize how quick a chainsaw cuts," she said. "The next thing I knew there was a sea of green. The branch kicked back because it was caught on a vine, and I did not see it. I looked over and I thought [the 14-inch blade] was caught in my shirt."
It was actually embedded in her side. Salich was rushed to the only level-one trauma center serving the south suburban area: Advocate Christ.
"The first thing I said, 'Is she stable?' He said yes. The second thing I said is, 'Don't pull it out.' And the third thing I said is, 'Get her to me as fast as you can," said Dr. Salzman. "They have never done a chapter in any of the textbooks I've read on how to remove a chainsaw correctly, so a lot of the stuff we do is on the fly and we sort of make it up as we go along. W never want to pull something out that's in, until we can actually get the patient into the operating room. If you pull something out that's stopping bleeding, it can then unplug the hole essentially and patients can bleed to death right on the spot."
Advocate Christ claims that they save 96 percent of the people they see in the ER, and they saved Salcich.
"It's miraculous," she said. "I feel amazing, all I have is a scar. That's all I have, no damage at all."
She said she thinks about the doctor who saved her often, especially when she's at the home improvement store. She plans to hire someone to do the gardening at her parents' house from now on.